Practical Advice to Help You Improve Your Church's Internal Communications
Communication often involves juggling all sorts of balls, managing multiple ministry calendars, and attempting to meet the needs of a variety of leaders. These facets lead to an increasingly difficult job for the communications leader to ensure everything gets communicated effectively and efficiently. How can you meet the expectations of your pastor and the nursery ministry leader? What do you do with those last-minute requests? What do you do when multiple events need to take up valuable marketable space simultaneously?
These are questions that most communication leaders face regularly. It's often a tall order to get everyone on the same page, resulting in your church's outward-facing communications appearing inconsistent. Worse, this can lead to forgetting communication items because not everyone uses the same systems and tools, or some fail to see the ministry behind the communications department.
In working with churches over the years, I've found that when public-facing communications look overcrowded or messy, it's often a result of a deeper issue—not simply an overly busy ministry calendar, but even deeper than that. The problem at the heart of messy communications is a lack of a robust internal communication strategy. If your church is suffering from a chaotic communication calendar, here are some tips to help you guide your church to a cohesive and consistent internal communication strategy.
Identify the root cause
Let's start at the core of the issue. If you look to identify why your church communications aren't quite working right, ask "why?" it's not working to get to the root cause. In Lean systems, part of identifying the root cause of any problem is asking "why?" at least five times. Often, we settle for the easy answer, which only creates a temporary fix rather than a long-term solution. Finding the root cause can teach your church leaders more about what's not working, why, and how to find a properly-suited solution.
Unity is critical
Somewhere along the way in identifying your church's root cause of communication issues, I'm willing to wager that you'll learn there's disunity among the church's leadership. I'm not saying you're working in a dysfunctional workplace (though you might be). But what I am saying is there is a lack of unity among the church staff or ministry leaders that leads to chaotic communications. Here's how that might play out in your church:
Realizing there's a lack of empathy among the staff for other ministries and leaders.
Ministry silos have taken shape, leading to a lack of cooperation and communication between teams and ministries.
Leaders are vying for space and attention because of a lack of planning; your church is often affixed to the "urgent" and can never seem to get to the "important."
Identifying where there's a lack of unity among your church leadership is critical if there is any hope of addressing internal communications. Creating opportunities for open dialogue and promoting interpersonal communication is vital to making forward strides toward healthier unity and communication.
Creating solutions requires buy-in
I know you want to fix everything today. You want to have an internal communication strategy that you can create today, implement tomorrow, and have fully functional by next week. But that's not the best way to address the issue unless you want to revisit this article in six months (in that case, make sure to bookmark the article!).
When you're looking for long-term solutions to directly address your church's internal communication needs, it's essential to involve people at all levels of leadership in identifying solutions to the root cause. Involve the people who will be using the system you put in place. Ask for feedback and input. Find a solution that addresses the root cause, moves your church's internal communications forward, and doesn't unnecessarily burden anyone.
Centralize your calendars
One of the easiest ways to improve your church's internal communication is to create a centralized church calendar. Having one unified calendar helps you (the communication leader) see a bird's eye view of everything happening at any given moment. This one tool addresses an array of other problem-causing issues and concerns: a centralized calendar knocks down ministry silos by allowing everyone to see what others have going on—and even collaborate around more significant events; it goes beyond the urgent by enabling people to see what's coming up in a month (or 4, 6, 9 months), and allows you to be proactive in planning communications.
There are lots of ways to create a centralized calendar. Depending on what calendar tool you use, you may be able to develop sub-calendars, add tags for ministries or event types, or other ways your church might need to identify and drill down to more detailed information. What's important is finding a system that works for your context, getting everyone on board, and creating consistency across the system. Maybe you want the calendar event description to have specific details, or perhaps the event "owner" on the calendar should be the ministry leader in charge of the event.
Processes, systems, and tools
The calendar is a great place to start. And maybe that's enough to improve the internal communications at your church. But if not, there are a lot of tools that your church could implement to help your internal communications go next-level, resulting in better communications to your congregation and community at large. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to creating systems and processes. Finding what works for your context is essential. Even more important is finding the right solutions that directly address the root cause of your internal communication problems. Here are some tips from my years of working with churches that might help you as you look to find the right solutions for your church's internal communication needs:
Automation - The more you can automate, the better! Some church management systems allow you to build approval processes for events. For example, if your youth ministry needs to use the A/V equipment for an upcoming event, that request could automatically notify the A/V director for approval. You could also create other automation throughout the process beyond approvals. Maybe it's making a document or adding something to your workflow. Think about the small tasks you need to complete and how you might be able to automate those tasks to save yourself some time.
Project Management - Find (with buy-in from others) a project management tool that you can use with other ministry leaders and volunteers. The right project management software will help you stay on top of all the tasks, but it will also build trust by allowing the event leader to see where things are at along the process. Don't settle! Find the right tool that will help you organize and navigate the complex needs of your ministry.
Proactive Meetings - One thing I've found incredibly helpful is to be proactive in setting "creative meetings" for communication-related needs. Most communication leaders act only when a completed design request form comes to their desk (and usually, it's like pulling teeth to get anyone to fill out that form, anyway). Rather than waiting for the form to come to you, take a look at the calendar, and set a creative meeting for the sermon series that starts in two months. Set an appointment, ask everyone involved to come ready with pertinent information, and prepare to brainstorm and think creatively. Follow up the meeting with a Creative Brief outlining what you discussed and including the next steps, including deadlines.
These ideas are all meant to get you started on your journey to improving the internal communications at your church. If you think your church might need some more individualized help, reach out to Church Juice. We're always excited to work with churches, and we'd love to work with your church to find the right solutions that meet your unique needs (and, of course, as a donor-supported ministry, we do it all for free).